Well, the season was always going to be a little bit weird, but this week got weirder. The Suns are suddenly good, the Tigers are suddenly average, Carlton are winning, West Coast are losing and then we get a game postponed due to a positive COVID test. As Eddie used to say regularly on the Footy Show, it’s been a big in football!
Of course, the round commenced on Thursday night where the Hawks, who were smarting after their touch-up from Geelong, faced last year’s premiers and perennial bogey side Richmond. As has been par for the course this year, we had an upset occur and it was set up by a fast start from the Hawks as they bounded out of the blocks kicking 5 goals to zip in the first qtr, and carrying that form through to 3qtr time where they held a 4pt lead heading in to the last.
As always, you can’t keep a good side down for 4 qtrs and the Tigers inevitably hit back in the last. Frustratingly for them, they could only muster 2-6 in the last, however had they kicked straighter it could have been closer.
On Friday night, we saw the Dogs and the Giants battle……and boy did they battle. It started with the Giants playing mind games by sending Nick Haynes (not the captain) to the toss for some unknown reason, then the biff started (well as close as we get to it these days) with the Giants clearly targeting Bontempelli. However, this time the Dogs players actually tried to help him, and it led to plenty of scuffles, pushing, shoving, shirts ripped and players rolling around wrestling a lot……aaaah social distancing!!
In the end the Dogs, despite their woeful kicking at goal prevailed comfortably. The Giants do seem to be struggling at the moment, with injuries again starting to hurt, whilst the Dogs got the win, they needed to possibly give them some confidence.
Saturday saw 4 games, with a couple of upsets and two strong wins for likely finalists. The Swans travelled to Melbourne to take on North Melbourne and have a surprisingly good record in this fixture of recent times. They took hold of this game in the second quarter, as they proved the adage good kicking is good football kicking 3-2 to 1-6 to take the half time lead. Another 5 goal to 2 qtr in the 3rd set up their victory but it got nervy at the end as the Kangas kicked 3 goals to nil in the last to make things interesting.
It’s a disappointing loss for the Kangas who looked up and about and now come back to the pack, whilst the Swans are quietly building into the season with a 2-1 record.
The Pies and Saints looked to be the game of the round but turned out to be anything but. The Pies took control early, and unlike many other games this round where we saw a last qtr comeback, Pies were far too strong across the whole game.
It helped that St Kilda were good enough to keep kicking the ball back to them all the time. After all the hype of their win over the Dogs (who we still aren’t sure are actually any good), they were quickly brought to ground against a genuine premiership threat. Shows they still have much to do to compete with the big boys.
Speaking of over-hyped teams…. West Coast. They seemed to be a genuine premiership threat, but at the moment look anything but. Clearly unhappy in the hub on the Gold Coast, they are playing like they’d like to be anywhere else and that’s now two big losses back to back.
The Lions are showing they are a good chance to at least win a final this year, but you have to wonder if the Eagles season might be shot by the time they get back to Perth. The thing is, they keep telling the AFL that they are coming home, but it’s their Premier they need to be talking too!
The final game on Saturday saw the biggest upset of the round, with the Blues travelling to Geelong to take on the Cats. Now Geelong win about 90% of their games at GMHBA, and the Blues haven’t won there for around 23yrs, so everyone pretty much expected that to continue. Nup.
The Blues flew out of the blocks, kicking 5.3 to 1.2 in the opening term with Eddie Betts on fire, then keeping the foot on the gas in the 2nd with a 4 goal to 3 quarter seeing them take a 29pt lead in to the main break. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to the Cats at the Cattery and everyone was expecting a fight back, but unfortunately for the Cats it didn’t come until the last qtr, kicking 5-4 to 1 point in the last qtr, pulling back a 35pt deficit and in the end, you could argue they bottled it as they missed some easy shots to win the game and the Blues held on by 2pts.
It’s a huge win for the Blues who have looked ok, but not got the results, whilst for the Cats is a huge loss. With probably 10 games at GMHBA, they would have been looking at those to bank the wins needed to pay wins. Dropping one early puts some added pressure on for sure.
Sunday saw the Suns continue their great start to the season, smashing the Crows by 53pts and looking ultra-impressive again. Matt Rowell looks as good as any footballer I have seen after 3 games and has the Rising Start stitched up already and will possibly be a smokey for the Brownlow if this form continues. It’s not just him though, they have plenty of young talent thriving, and when the older guys like Greenwood, Ellis, Swallow and Miller play good footy too, they are great to watch. For Adelaide, bloody hell, they looked bad. It was just 2 seasons ago they played off in a Grand Final, entering that as easily the best side in the comp. Since then, they have pretty much imploded. They look a long way from it, and with further players likely to leave, it’s going to be a long way back too.
Lastly, we had the high-flying Port comfortably defeat the Dockers on the Gold Coast. In one of the stupider fixturing ideas, they played this at 8:10 on a Sunday night on the Gold Coast, on a night where it was going to be rainy and slippery, outside of school holiday. Did they want anyone to turn up? It was only re-scheduled the day before, surely you put it on a bit earlier to encourage attendance as opposed to try and limit it. Anyway, not sure how good the Power are yet, having beaten the Suns (before they became good), then the Crows now the struggling Dockers. Still, 3 from 3, and I doubt their supporters will really care what I think!
Ok, so let’s have a look at the winners and the losers this weekend:
1) Carlton – Comfortably the biggest winner this week, despite the smallest margin. It should be a huge confidence boost for them, despite the late scare, to not only knock off the Cats down at the Cattery, but to actually hold on for the win when really challenged. It gets them off the mark and shows them that they can do it. Now….to keep doing it!
2) Gold Coast – These guys should get a Friday night game in the next bracket, as everyone deserves to watch these guys play. They play strong, competitive footy, they use the ball well, and pressure as a team. Matt Rowell deserves the big stage, as does Ben King, Ben Ainsworth, Noah Anderson, Charlie Ballard, and the rest of the Suns list.
3)Hawthorn – After what was a lacklustre effort against the Cats, the Hawks needed to show something. The beauty was, they did, and their effort and pressure in the first 3 qtrs was exceptional. It dropped off in the last, which allowed the Tigers back in, but it shows what happens when the effort is there. North and the Giants to come, if the Hawks can keep this up then they can set themselves up for finals in the coming weeks
4)Port Adelaide – as noted above, I’m not yet convinced they are that good, as the teams they have beaten aren’t great, but it’s the way they have beaten those sides that is impressive. It’s 3 from 3 and they are firmly cemented at the top of the ladder with a big percentage. Even better for them, is that the Crows are completely rubbish, just to make things sweet at Alberton
5)Sydney – good strong win, away from home, against an inform opponent. It’s a win that sets up seasons and gives confidence to the playing group. Their young players are playing well, as their older guard just do what they do. Papley is cementing himself amongst that games top players as is Heeney. There are some really strong signs for the Swans at the moment……Buddy who?
1)Connor McKenna – cops the AFL’s first COVID positive test, throwing the season again off kilter. The worst thing is, he was also going outside the AFL COVID rules to boot so it’s likely he’ll cop a suspension from the league on top of having his name dragged through the mud in the media. This from a bloke who had to be strongly encouraged to come back this season, having severe home-sickness issues.
2)Essendon – It had to be Essendon didn’t it!! Would have been paying short odds for it to happen to them first….and it did. The thing is, if he had an irregular test, why was he at the club at all?? Unlike Essendon to have governance issues…… The biggest loss for them is the fact they could lose their 3 best backman (Hurley, Hooker, Saad) and arguably their best forward (Stringer) because of it. Huge loser out of all this
3)Adelaide – Lucky to be ranked 3rd based on their performance. They look a shell of the team that played in the Grand Final a few years ago, and it’s the lack of performance from their leaders that’s most telling. Look a long way from being competitive, let alone winning. Long season for the Crows it seems
3a) Mark Ricciuto – Firstly, comes out and bags the players who left the club, and explaining why they were let go. Then, gets into a twitter spat with Hugh Greenwood after the Suns win. He was also previously critical of Andrew McLeod who criticised the culture of the club recently, suggesting McLeod should air those grievances out in public, despite doing that himself regularly. It’s this stuff that shows why the Adelaide culture is stuffed, and it might be best for all parties if Ricciuto moves on too.
4) St Kilda – After being pumped up all week after their strong win against the Dogs, they were put to the sword by the Pies, thus showing how far away this side is from being a contender. They were put under pressure and simply didn’t handle it at all, constantly turning over the footy and gifting the Pies easy goals and scores. Needs to turn it around quickly.
5) Geelong – They got comfortably beaten in round 1 by the Giants, convincing winners against the Hawks, then again stumbled against the Blues at home. It’s a loss they didn’t need now, as they would have banked the wins at GMHBA as certainties in their quest for another push for a flag. It seems that Clarko was right, they aren’t that good!